Methodological approaches for identifying competencies for the physiotherapy profession: a scoping review

Discov Educ. 2022;1(1):9. doi: 10.1007/s44217-022-00008-9. Epub 2022 Jun 28.


Physiotherapy competencies inform the education and regulation of the profession. Many different methods appear to be used to identify competencies and there is no consensus on optimal methods to identify competencies. The purpose of this review is to synthesize the methodological approaches used to identify competencies for the physiotherapy profession and summarize the nature of those competencies. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the grey literature from inception to June 2020. Two independent reviewers screened for empirical peer-reviewed articles that aimed to identify professional physiotherapy competencies. General study characteristics, competency characteristics (e.g., target practice area), and methodological characteristics (e.g., study population, data collection and analysis method for each methodological step) were extracted. Descriptive statistics and narrative synthesis were performed. Of the 9529 references screened, 38 articles describing 35 studies published between 1980 and 2020 were included. Orthopaedics (20.0%) was the most commonly targeted area of practice. Studies used one to eight methodological steps whose objective was to generate (16 studies), validate (18 studies), assign value (21 studies), refine (10 studies), or triangulate (3 studies) competencies, or to address multiple objectives (10 studies). The most commonly used methods were surveys to assign value (n = 20, 95%), and group techniques to refine competencies (n = 7, 70%). Physiotherapists with experience in the area of competence was the most commonly consulted stakeholder group (80% of studies). This review can provide methodological guidance to stakeholders such as educators and regulators that aim to identify professional competencies in the future.

Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s44217-022-00008-9.

Keywords: Clinical competence; Competency-based education; Physical therapists; Physical therapy specialty; Professional competence.

Publication types

  • Review